Monday press conference: Lisa Stone

Women's basketball coach discussed her seniors and finishing this season on a positive note

All right, Lisa, you get the last couple of games and then the tournament, so you have that to look forward to. I guess you take the positive tact in all this?

"Well, you look at where we've been the last three games, we played three ranked teams, two of them on the road, yesterday obviously against a very talented Minnesota team, and Michigan State and Penn State. We played three ranked teams, two on the road. I'm not making any excuses. It's just a very tough part of our schedule.

"You're right, though, with two to go, two this week; Senior Day on Wednesday against Northwestern and then at Purdue, a game in which we played very well here quite a while back. Our Purdue game was our opener in the Big Ten. Now we finish there ironically in Ebba Gebisa's hometown, so hopefully that'll give us a little bit more incentive as well. And then on to the Big Ten Tournament. So, if we're going to make a push, it has to happen now. We need to lick our wounds and move on."

Lisa, based on the personality that you usually bring in here, are you sitting here thinking, when you see what's happened to your team the last two games, do you think, 'boy, have we got a long way to go, we're just not even, you know, we have so many holes,' or are you trying to focus on the good things that happened?

"I'm a big positive motivator. That's just the way I am... I'll never quit. I'll never say die. And my players won't either. The experience that our young kids are getting in the Big Ten, which is very difficult, and you look at the teams we've played, the senior Janel McCarville, seniors Jess Strom and Tanisha Wright, those people are graduating.

"You look at Michigan State and their size and a terrific guard that they have they're going to graduate. Those people go. You look at our young freshmen and where they're going to be. So I don't look at it as a long way to go. I'm excited about the future. I'm excited about now I want to finish strong and that's just the way I am. I can't change who I am and I never will."

Coach, what have the seniors meant to you, and specifically what has Stephanie Rich meant to you in your two years here?

"Well, you think about when we came in, you know, a brand-new staff and never once was there a moment of not feeling like you were welcomed. Emily Ashbaugh, Lello Gebisa and Abby Simmons last year, were our seniors, along with Steph and Ebba. You think about an upper class embracing new ideas, excitement, energy, where you want the program to go, and I've gotten great acceptance from Steph and Ebba. Both of them have maintained a solid attitude, have helped our team both on and off the court, have been active in the community, have been tremendous student-athletes. They mean a great deal from the standpoint of role models for our program.

"And when you're looking at a Stephanie Rich as a point guard and having to play out of position all four years, you can't take away any of her work ethic or what she's brought to the table. Ebba's attitude and her demeanor, her classiness, her intelligence, etc., both are going to be very, very successful. And people that our young people need to look up to them from a standpoint of their completeness."

Lisa, a season is a series of ebbs and flows, perhaps played better in some aspects earlier. What really has you concerned right now on the court about your team?

"Well, you know, you want to look at a, maybe a level of confidence, if you will. You know, we just came off three big ones, and three big ones that never once when we walked into the game did we not think we had a chance to win. You know, you're playing in a, for instance yesterday, in Williams Arena, it's packed, it's a sellout, you can't get a ticket for a women's game.

"That's a terrific stage, and no pun intended with it being four feet off the floor, but that's the stage it was for women's basketball. You look back to not so long ago when there was 200 people in that gym, and now you look at where it's come for women's athletics. I think it's tremendous and something that we want to emulate and get our program to.

"But when you look at where we have to finish, we want to finish strong, carry some momentum into the tournament, into the off-season and get ready for next year. Every day is a new opportunity and every game is a new opportunity. So, you know, you can look and you can maybe weather and think about pointing to bad things or good things. Right now it's important that we just get back on track and try to finish with some momentum here into the postseason."

I'm wondering how the players handled this, you know, when you get smacked a few times.

"Well, I liked their response yesterday, actually. We felt, you know, you don't look at the scoreboard, you look at effort and you look at how we finished and if there's some positives and a silver lining to take from it. I think, you know, you can earmark a Janese Banks who played, I think, her best game of the year yesterday both defensively and offensively, and it was her birthday.

"And then Jordan Wilson's best game was against Green Bay on her birthday. We need more birthdays, I've decided. That needs to happen. If we have everybody have a birthday at every game, so if we can recruit players that - that won't work. But it certainly was a good game for Janese and one that she'll remember as well.

"But, you know, you try to continue plugging away. And after the Penn State game, I'll be honest, our kids were down. Their confidence was down. Build the team up. Put your band-aid on it and let's go. And we did against Minnesota. The demeanor was different. The locker room was different. Today's practice will be inspired as we get ready for Wednesday."

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